A version of this was originally published in The Daily Brief, our Maine politics newsletter. Sign up here for daily news and insight from politics editor Michael Shepherd.
The Maine Republican Party’s state convention begins on Friday in Augusta, with the party saying 1,800 people are ticketed for the event in what should be a good year for them nationally in a midterm election for President Joe Biden, who is suffering from low approval ratings.
Day 1 will be headlined by speeches from U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and Republican National Committee co-chair Tommy Hicks. Former Gov. Paul LePage and the party’s slate of congressional candidates will be speaking on Saturday.
Here are two things we will be watching for.
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How will Collins be received after another party-bucking vote?
Party conventions are a mixed crowd, with Augusta insiders mixing with grassroots activists who can make things unpredictable. There is no presidential nominating fight this time around, but Collins could be a target for some after her recent vote for Ketanji Brown Jackson for the U.S. Supreme Court.
Remember that two county party committees reprimanded Collins after she voted to convict former President Donald Trump on an impeachment charge in 2021. The state committee then shot a censure down. But Collins also had goodwill from conservatives during her 2020 reelection race in which her once-broken relationship with LePage was mended.
She is now endorsing him. Her overall reception from the crowd and the applause lines she chooses on Friday afternoon will be interesting to watch.
Party leaders in Augusta want to focus on kitchen-table issues. Activists have some other ideas.
If you talk to top Republican lawmakers, you sense the economy will be their top 2022 issue. LePage has teased that as a focus, but he has outflanked his party by criticizing relief payments in a spending bill from Mills and Republicans and calling for a gas tax suspension.
Republicans on Friday will debate a proposed platform with new items nodding to the national culture war, including a rebuke of critical race theory. The platform still has an item defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Attendees tried to strike the plank early on Friday, but the item survived a vote and will remain in the platform. While this is only a symbolic document for an activist crowd, some see it as a way to hold officeholders accountable.